Now that the pendulum has swung from crisis to new norm, we are facing a new challenge – the overwhelming rise in burnout in nursing. With over 5 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States with no end in sight, nurses are getting beat up physically, mentally, and emotionally. Tackling burnout in nursing should be as top of mind as finding a vaccine and enough PPE.
They moved the finish line
When COVID-19 hit, leaders kept telling their staff that they were in this together; they were all going to get through this as a team; we got this – on and on. It’s because we thought there was a finish line and that finish line was in sight. Just a few months of crisis and then we’d go back to normal.
And then they moved the finish line.
If you are…
… helping your front line care for patients with COVID-19.
… leading a team who are battling this crisis or who are unexpectedly furloughed or deployed to new responsibilities.
… an executive leader who is responsible for an entire organization – not just protecting your PEOPLE but also trying to keep up with the vast number of new and ever changing regulations.
I bet you are exhausted – mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.
Multiply that by every person in your department, and now you have an exhausted team.
Here’s the deal – You can’t continue to care for patients and continue to fight the virus if you’re not taking care of your teams.
According to Nan Henderson, from Resilience in Action, resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges and to bounce back stronger and wiser. Resilience is a cluster of attitudes and skills that help nurses develop both courage and strategies to turn stressful circumstances from potential calamities into growth experiences (what can we learn from this that will make us a stronger team?). When the day becomes stressful and the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, resilience allows the team to focus on compassionate and effective solutions rather than stress. With this focus, the team can call upon their resources to serve patients, their families, and each other. The team can also find the resilience needed to come to a stressful work environment day after day not knowing when they will cross the finish line.
The key to reducing burnout in nursing is to focus on creating resilient teams.
5 ways to build resilient teams
Create “no complaining zones”
It’s easy to walk into the break room and start complaining about, well…about everything. When you think about it, the break room is just that – a break from the high intensity of patient care. So when nurses use the break room to vent and complain, then nobody gets a true break from the stress. By identifying your break room or other areas in your department as “no complaining zones”, you are stopping the spread of stress and negativity.
Turn huddles into team care moments
Most every team huddles at some point during their shift. Use this opportunity, when the team is together, to infuse self-care tips and reminders. Ask – what are you doing to cope today? Does anyone need extra support today? Remind the team to eat something healthy and to ask each other for help.
Address negative team members
When anyone on the team is negative, they spread that negativity to others. We all know who the Negative Nancys or David Downers are. While we tend to ignore or just tolerate them, they’re unknowingly causing more stress on the entire team. It’s because of mirror neurons in all of our brains that mimic what we see and hear. We unknowingly absorb and then allow others to influence our attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, leaders need to pull the negative team members aside and say…
“I’m not sure you realize that you come across as very negative (add specific examples). I’d like to talk to you about this. [honest and respectful].
When you spend time complaining or criticizing about ______, it influences the entire team and brings morale down.” [what’s the impact?]
I’d like you to spend less time complaining/criticizing in front of the team and more time complimenting/praising.” [redirect]
Stop tolerating or ignoring negativity.
Build a culture of kindness
If stress and negativity are contagious, then so is kindness and caring. As you know, random acts of kindness have been shown to create more joy within the person “giving” than the person receiving. Then it stands to reason that more joy can be created among the team. Buy a co-worker a “good” cup of coffee and put it on his or her desk. I’m a huge notecard fan. Why not find an inspirational notecard and give it to a co-worker who might not expect it. Clean up the break room (and that awful, disgusting microwave) even though you didn’t create the mess.
Why not start a kindness revolution in your department? Your teams will thank you!
Create a culture of appreciation
According to Sarah McVanel, Founder of Greatness Magnified, teams are missing an opportunity to truly connect with each other by engaging in meaningful recognition. In her article, Why We Don’t Recognize In Organizations And How To Change That, Sarah writes…
“Every audience I ask the question, “How do you like to be recognized?” With few exceptions, the same three things come up.
The same three ways that our research partnership with Metrics@Work revealed.”
Tell me thank you (95%)
Tell me specifically what I’m doing well (92%)
Write me a thank you (88%)
Teams are a sum of their “parts”. When the “parts” feel appreciated and valued, they are better able to ward off crisis after crisis and bounce back from tough days.
Each department needs to pull together by making the physical, mental, and emotional health of the TEAM a priority. By actively engaging in strategies to tackle burnout as a team, we can slow down the rise of burnout in nursing, like we’re finally slowing down the rise of COVID-19.